The job of Apple Retail Store employees will begin changing in profound ways next month. In order to showcase and sell the Apple Watch, retail employees will be trained to provide personal fashion and styling advice to customers, according to employees briefed on the plans. Until now, Apple Retail has been tasked with recommending iPads, iPhones and Macs with few styling options aside from limited color options.
Apple is pushing for retail employees to initiate conversations that build trust, enabling the employee to serve as a valued fashion advisor during the purchase process, similarly to how traditional watches are sold. Apple Watch sales training programs will take place for Apple retail staff over the course of the next two weeks, teaching entirely new sales techniques to encourage iPhone upgrades, assist with gifting, and guide customers in watch and strap choices.
Below, we detail how employees will provide fashion advice to customers and Apple’s multi-part plan for selling an Apple Watch.
Apple is encouraging employees to build relationships with customers to understand their purchase plans, stylistic wants, and fashion needs. Apple has created multiple sample personas (shown above and below) to prepare employees for the launch. Apple also asks employees to recommend different fashion and style choices. Employees have been told to make comments such as “you seem to have a fun style. I think the Pink Sport band would match your style perfectly,” or “the white strap looks great on you.” Apple offers guidelines for making fashion and style advice:
- Make comments about why you think an option is a good choice rather than discussing why an option may not be a good choice.
- Explain how earlier customers made decisions between models.
- Use other accessories [already] on a customer as examples for which model would look best.
- If the customer is with another person, make sure to get the opinion of that person on which model should be purchased.
- Don’t focus on price as a reason to recommend an option because many customers may be willing to spend more for a model that makes them feel good.
During the sales process, Apple expects customers to make comments similar to the examples below:
- Looks good—”I love how it will coordinate with many of my outfits.”
- Functionality—”I love that I just have to raise my wrist to have the display turn on.”
- Good financial investment—”I think I can afford that.”
- Durability—”I’m sure I’ll have this for years.”
- Ease of use—”That’s so easy.”
- Versatility—”Wow, there’s so many options for straps.”
Emphasizing style over function, retail employees will be instructed to provide fashion advice like an eyeglass salesperson might at a glasses store. This is new territory for Apple, a company that has traditionally sold products that sit in pockets and on tables. Clearly, the new selling techniques were shaped by some of Apple’s recent hires from the fashion industry, including Burberry’s Angela Ahrendts & Chester Chipperfield, Yves St. Laurent’s Paul Deneve & Catherine Monnier, Tag Heuer’s Patrick Pruniaux, and Louis Vuitton’s Jacob Jordan.
Beyond the psychology behind providing fashion advice to customers, Apple will simplify its sales strategy into five key steps:
- Determine Existing Knowledge: Apple wants employees to determine how much knowledge the customer has about the Apple Watch’s functionality. For example, customers will be asked, “What excites you about the Apple Watch?” or “What features from the Apple Watch are you familiar with?” Once the employee discovers the customer’s Apple Watch knowledge, they can decide whether or not to take them into the sale process or take them to Apple Watch-related retail staff specifically trained to teach and answer questions about the device.
- Discuss Current iPhone and iOS: As the Apple Watch requires iPhone 5 hardware or newer as well as iOS 8.2, Apple employees will be instructed to discuss the customer’s current iPhone and iOS version. The employees will also be instructed to ask customers which features they use on the iPhones so that they can explain how these features will tie into the Apple Watch’s feature set.
- Push iPhone Upgrades: In line with our Apple Watch reporting earlier this month, Apple will leverage the Apple Watch launch as a major sales opportunity for iPhone upgrades. Apple Retail Store employees will be instructed to discuss newer iPhone models if a customer using iPhones older than the current iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Employees will have the ability to check a customer’s iPhone upgrade eligibility with carriers on the spot. For customers wanting an Apple Watch without an iPhone, this will be an opportunity to leverage the new Android trade-in program for Apple Stores.
- Discuss Why the Watch is Being Purchased: Moving toward the Apple Watch sale, Apple Store employees will be instructed to ask customers about what specific functionality from the Apple Watch interests them. Customers will be asked who the Apple Watch is for, such as themselves, for someone else, or a special occasion. Apple employees will also ask how the customer sees themselves using the Apple Watch before leading into which specific model to sell.
- Determine Which Model to Sell: Also corresponding with our earlier report, employees will determine casing and band styles based on a customer’s use cases. Apple Store employees will ask variants of the following questions in order to determine which Watch model to sell the customer: “What does your current watch look like?,” “How do you plan on using your Apple Watch?,” “Which Apple Watch look matches your personal style?,” “Do you prefer leather or metal bands?,” and “Are you more of a classic or modern watch enthusiast?”
Prior to preparing employees on sales tactics and techniques for providing fashion advice, Apple informed employees about the overall structure of Apple Watch in-store sales. Apple Watch customers will be able to begin visiting Apple Stores on April 10th to try-on the Apple Watch before being able to buy the device beginning April 24th. Apple Store employees will be organized into four zones (Apple Watch & Sport sales, Apple Watch Edition Sales, questions, and try-ons), and appointment times (which aren’t required) will be allotted for 15 minute periods.